U.S. Supreme Court Sides With Seminoles In Landmark Sports Betting Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has sided with Florida’s Seminole Tribe in a landmark online sports betting case that has reaffirmed Native American gambling rights across the nation.

West Flagler Associates–owners of the Magic City Casino in Miami and a former greyhound track, the Bonita-Fort Myers, which now operates as a card room and simulcast facility–have been wagering an extensive legal campaign against the Gaming Compact between the Seminole Tribe and the Florida State government.

They first challenged the compact in 2021, claiming that the agreement constituted an illegal monopoly of online betting in the Sunshine State, and began legal proceedings to overturn the compact in Florida’s law courts.

The case finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS), where judges met to determine whether it should have a full legal hearing. SCOTUS rejected the decision earlier this week.

The Compact

Florida’s 2021 Gaming Compact is a three-decade-long deal that covers online sports betting. It also provides the state of Florida with a 10% cut of the net win received by the tribe for online sports betting activities.

Since the Seminole Tribe and Governor DeSantis agreed on the compact, the plaintiff, West Flagler Associates, has challenged it in the lower court and Florida’s Supreme Court, which rejected the case.

On June 13th, SCOTUS considered the case based on the plaintiffs’ argument that the compact violates the Indian Regulatory Gaming Act of 1988 (IRGA).

This federal law allows gambling on tribal lands. The issue is whether online gambling (when the servers are on tribal lands, but the online product is offered statewide) is classed as gambling on tribal lands.

SCOTUS Says No Thanks

SCOTUS is busy, and not every case makes it to the court, hence pre-hearings (or, in the court’s lingua franca, the “certiorari stage”). Here, SCOTUS judges consider the case’s merit and vote on it. In the case of West Flagler, they decided not to hear the case.

In doing so, the U.S. Court of Appeals (District of Columbia) decision to uphold Florida’s 2021 Gaming Compact stands — this was the last ruling on the matter, meaning the Seminoles maintain their monopoly on online sports betting in Florida.

The broader implications are that the model provided by the Seminoles and the state of Florida may offer a handy new pathway to online sports betting in other states.

Hard Rock Bet All the Way

Despite the legal melee, Hard Rock Bet Florida started taking bets in December 2023 and is set to bring millions of dollars in revenue and benefits to the Seminoles and The Sunshine State.

​​“The Seminole Tribe of Florida applauds today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to decline consideration of the case involving the Tribe’s Gaming Compact with the State of Florida,” said Gary Bitner, a spokesman for the Seminole Tribe.

“It means members of the Seminole Tribe and all Floridians can count on a bright future made possible by the Compact.”

Still Kicking

It’s not yet over for West Flagler Associates, and be warned: They might fight this to the bitter end, which means challenging the earlier U.S. Court of Appeals ruling. All we’ll say for now is that online sports betting in Florida, specifically Hard Rock Bet, looks set to stay.

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